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Cannabis Extracts Demystified: Isolate vs. Broad-spectrum vs. Full-spectrum

Choosing which CBD product to buy shouldn't be a brain buster. Here's what you need to know to solve the mystery.

The CBD business is flourishing. Now a billion-dollar a year industry in the United States, every day, more and more people opt to try CBD as a holistic approach to their health and wellness over prescription medications.

While there are hundreds of products you can buy from your local CBD store, not all are created equal. This difference boils down to what type of CBD extract is infused into the product. Some products are combined with extracts that contain only a single cannabinoid, while others may have more than 100 kinds of cannabinoids—or compounds produced by the cannabis plant.

There are three general classifications of CBD extracted products you can purchase: isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. How each category is classified directly relates to the individual cannabinoids that make up the extract.

In this blog, we demystify the different CBD products out there and breakdown what chemical differences you should know about the various extracts.

What are Cannabis Extracts?

Cannabis extracts come from the cannabis plant—either hemp or marijuana—and may have over 100 individual cannabinoids in the extract. Understanding the difference between a hemp and marijuana extract has to do with the cannabinoid profile of the extract. Cannabinoid profiles are specific to a type of cannabis strain and give information on the concentration and types of cannabinoids that comprise the extract.

The main difference that exists between hemp and marijuana, chemically, lies in the amount of THC and CBD present in the plant. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that gives you the "high sensation" and feelings of euphoria. CBD on the flip side acts differently in your body and does not produce the same physical sensations as THC.

Extracts that come from hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC and cannot get you high since there is a minimal amount of THC, while extracts that originate from marijuana may have up to 30% THC and will get you high.

How are CBD Extracts Made?

Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are fatty by nature. They don't like water, so a majority of CBD extracts are produced using a solvent-based method of extraction with fat-loving solvents like ethanol, butane, hexane, or supercritical CO2. The process of making CBD extracts is pretty complicated, and the types of compounds present in each category ultimately depend on the refinement process of the crude cannabis extract.

Cannabis plants and the resulting spectrum-based extracts contain an abundance of chemical compounds in addition to cannabinoids, such as terpenes and flavonoids. The distinction between a product infused with an isolate versus broad-spectrum or full-spectrum oil relates to the types of cannabinoids and other compounds in the extract.

Once the cannabinoids are separated from the plant fats, and pigments then comes the step of making the spectrum and isolates. In the case of isolates, all of the terpenes and flavonoids are separated and removed from the extract.

What Does the Term Spectrum Mean?

The term spectrum in the cannabis world is just another way of speaking about products that have an extensive range, or more than one cannabinoid and/or terpene present. You can equate this idea to the visible spectrum or R O Y G B I V you see in the rainbow. Meaning this same concept applies to spectrum-based CBD extracts, but in this case, you replace colors with the various cannabinoids.

Unlike the rainbow, which has only seven colors, the cannabis plant has over 100 individual cannabinoids. Can you imagine seeing a rainbow with over 100 different colors?

Whew, that would be a glorious vision to remember for sure.


Full-spectrum vs. Broad-spectrum CBD Extracts

The easiest way to distinguish a full-spectrum from a broad-spectrum extract is based-on the cannabinoid profile.

Full-spectrum CBD extracts contain the psychoactive compound THC, plus the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that occur naturally in the plant. If we refer back to our rainbow analogy, you can think of a full-spectrum extract as having all the colors

R O Y G B I V, or all of the 100 plus plant cannabinoids.

Broad-spectrum CBD extracts, on the other hand, do not contain THC. These extracts go through a bit more of a chemical refinement process to take out the THC but still retain all the other cannabinoids in addition to the terpenes and flavonoids. In this situation, your rainbow is now O Y G B I V, missing the color red or the cannabinoid THC.